Schools close as strike reaches new territory

A packed Barkers Pools for the TUC day of action over pensions
A packed Barkers Pools for the TUC day of action over pensions

TEACHERS gathered before dawn with banners and placards to form a picket line outside Bradfield School.

Citizenship teacher Ben Miskell, aged 28, said: “The school was closed with almost all staff taking part in the action. This is the first picket line that has been seen at Bradfield for many years – traditionally it’s not a school that gets involved in industrial action.

“Plans to attack our pensions have really got people angry – so we have huge numbers of staff going into town to take part in the demonstration.

“The announcement by George Osborne that we are going to have a 1% pay freeze imposed upon us has just added salt to the wound.

“We are just hoping that we can get back round the table and talk seriously so we don’t have to take this action again.”

Huw Thomas, headteacher at an inner city Sheffield primary school, said: “As a head, going out on strike is not something I do lightly and it’s always a tough decision. When you’re a head your decision has implications for your whole school and I gave it a fair bit of thought.

“The biggest factor for me was the big challenge I face trying to recruit the best people to teach in my classrooms – if decent pensions aren’t there, the best graduates may opt for a different profession.

“So I see this attack on our pensions as an attack on the future of teaching itself.”

However, a minority of Sheffield primaries stayed open during the one-day national industrial action because staff were uncertain about taking industrial action.

Chris Holder, headteacher at Lowfield Primary, was keeping his school open despite being a member of the NAHT, which voted for action.

“We have told three of our classes to stay at home but a majority of our staff will be in school. Some are non-union, others have chosen not to take part,” he said.

“I have chosen not to take action, I have the responsibility of running this school and I feel very strongly it should be open to serve this very diverse community.”

Sue Preston, head at Clifford Infants at Nether Edge and an NUT member, also said she had taken a personal decision to stay at work.

“We have four teachers in although our support and office staff are on strike. It was difficult but everyone has made their own decision, even though they are all in unions.”

Catherine Skinn, head at Emmanuel Juniors at Waterthorpe, said her nine staff had decided to stay at work.

“They have all decided individually what to do and have decided to work. I am in the NAHT and I have made a personal decision, I wish to say no more,” she added.